Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children/adolescents

Our approach to treating autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents: What is autism spectrum disorder? What are the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder? What causes autism spectrum disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder is highly complex, and the symptoms vary substantially between each young person. We understand that you want the best for your child, but choosing between all of the diagnosis and treatment options can be confusing.

We are here to provide you with clear, practical information so that you can make an informed decision about the best path forward.

Our approach to treating autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents

Every child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is different and needs to be treated as such. We carry out standardised assessments according to the latest guidelines and we make sure that assessments are flexible and customised to the needs of the child. We assess a whole range of other factors that could also be contributing to their difficulties, such as:

  • Difficulty with attention or behaviour
  • Learning or cognitive impairment
  • Anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Sleeping problems
  • Appetite problems (such as limited food preferences)
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, or reflux
  • Immune problems such as allergies, asthma, or autoimmune conditions
  • Metabolic issues such as obesity, diabetes, or vitamin D deficiency
  • Epilepsy

 

It’s incredibly important to take into account all of these factors in addition to the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder so that we can make a holistic treatment plan. By targeting other contributing factors, we often find that the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder also improve, or at least they become more manageable.

 

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that the symptoms vary significantly from person to person and throughout life. While some people with autism will have more subtle difficulties and milder symptoms, others will have more complex needs. Some people might be familiar with the term Asperger’s syndrome referring to a milder form of autism. However, this term is no longer in use now that autism has been recognised as a spectrum condition.

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that begins very early in life. Some children will show noticeable symptoms from birth. In other children, the symptoms may only become evident several years after birth. Children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder have difficulties communicating with other people and relating to the world around them. They may see, hear and feel the world differently and develop unusual or repetitive patterns of behaviour.

Many people don’t realise that autism spectrum disorder rarely occurs on its own. Unfortunately, other mental and physical health conditions tend to occur alongside autism, making it more complex to treat. Some of the common conditions that may co-occur with autism include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obesity or diabetes
  • Autoimmune disorders, asthma or allergies
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Neurological conditions

 

While the presence of these other conditions can make it more challenging for an autism therapist to diagnose and treat autism, we often find that a holistic treatment approach can make an enormous positive impact. Once other conditions are treated, children tend to become much more confident, and the symptoms of autism become more manageable.

Although each child will have unique limitations and strengths, our ultimate goal is to enable all children to reach their potential and live fulfilling lives.

Testimonials

I can't find enough good things to say about the overall experience. I am so appreciative of how well prepared she was, how well she put Laura at ease. Her amazing professionalism and ability to draw all the elements together in a way that really resonated with us both, and made us feel really understood. What a wonderful person and gifted professional.

Laura said she feels as if more has achieved in that session that everything else put together so far. She has been so much happier, more confident and at ease since the appointment. I know this is a process and we have a long journey ahead of us but it feels like we've found the right person to guide us in the right direction. Thank you.

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What are the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder?

The symptoms of autism can vary between children and also depend on the cognitive capacity of the child.

Symptoms are usually noticeable across several different areas:

Verbal communication

Issues interpreting instructions, or taking things too literally, not using social pleasantries or not responding when spoken to.

Non-verbal communication

Difficulty reading emotions from facial expressions, reading voice tones, understanding gestures, avoiding eye contact, not smiling or understanding body language.

Social perception

Difficulty understanding social cues, expressions, jokes, not having empathy for others, behaviour not appropriate for specific contexts and difficulty making friends.

Repetitive or fixed behaviour

Hand flapping, rocking back and forth, strict and inflexible daily routines, very specific and inflexible dietary preferences.

Sensory awareness

Highly sensitive or strong distaste to certain noises, sounds, smells, tastes, lights or textures.

Interests

Very focused and niche interests, little interest in anything but these hobbies or activities.

What causes autism spectrum disorder?

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that may be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and biological factors. The prevalence of autism is 1% globally and it tends to affect more males than females.

The heritability of autism is high, at 83%, meaning that genetics significantly influence whether someone develops autism or not. However, it’s not a simple case of specific genes that increase the risk for autism. Instead, researchers have identified that some of the genetic risk comes from small mutations in many different genes, with each of these genes contributing a small amount of risk, which is known as polygenic risk. Furthermore, these genes can mutate based on exposure to environmental risk factors (such as low birth weight or smoking during pregnancy), which is a process called epigenetics. Due to the vast number of genes involved, scientists still don’t understand precisely why some children develop autism, while others don’t.

Although it might be scary to learn about these biological factors involved in autism, the good news is that there are a range of therapeutic approaches that improve the symptoms of autism and help your child to live a happy and fulfilling life.

What are the other symptoms associated with autism?

Approximately 70% of children with autism will also have another comorbid condition. It is crucial to identify and treat any other conditions, as improving these may also improve the symptoms of autism.

Common issues that typically co-occur with ASD include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Behaviour problems (oppositional defiant disorder)
  • Sleep problems
  • Physical health conditions (epilepsy, allergies, gastrointestinal problems)

 

While the presence of these other conditions can make it more challenging to diagnose and treat autism, we often find that a holistic treatment approach can make an enormous positive impact. Once other conditions are treated, the symptoms of autism become much more manageable.

How do you treat autism spectrum disorder?

Once autism is diagnosed, as well as any other potential conditions, an autism therapist will develop a personalised treatment plan specifically for your child. We will develop this with your input, based on your child’s needs and unique circumstances. Understanding your child’s condition and recognising that they have unique needs is integral to supporting them. Your autism therapist can help your child to feel accepted and respected as they are, within a supportive and positive environment that will enable them to live a more fulfilling life.

A treatment plan for autism may combine any of the following evidence-based approaches:

Psychotherapy (psychological therapy or talking therapies)

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Family therapy (systemic therapy)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Social skills therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

Psychoeducation

  • Information and support so that you and your child can better understand and cope with their Autism symptoms.

Environmental approaches

  • Parenting techniques to take a positive and proactive approach to supporting your child
  • Learning techniques tailored to your child’s specific Autism symptoms
  • Behavioural learning techniques developed in association with your child’s school

Medication (if required)

Stress reduction approaches

  • Mindfulness techniques
  • Mind-body exercises

Diet and lifestyle interventions

  • Exercise
  • Nutritional and dietary changes
  • Supplements
  • Sleep therapy

 

When recommending a treatment plan, we will always follow the current guidelines that are based on evidence-based methods. Popular complementary treatments, such as stress reduction techniques and lifestyle interventions, may also carry a substantial benefit for your child and are low-risk to implement. We always emphasise the importance of formulating a treatment plan that is appropriate for your child under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Some of our publications in autism research

Dr Regina Sala:

Sala et al., 2020. Bridging the Gap Between Physical Health and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

Our Doctors

Here to help you with ASD

Dr Srinivas Lanka

Dr Lara Lavadiño

Dr Regina Sala

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Gemma Luke

My name is Dr Gemma Luke, a consultant clinical psychologist. I have been working in the field of mental health for over 20 years, and as a qualified clinical psychologist since 2011.

Conditions I treat:
Self-HarmAddictions AnxietyBDDBipolar disorderBehaviour problemsDepression Eating DisordersOCDPanic AttacksPersonality DisordersTrauma & PTSDOffending behaviour (domestic, violent, and sexual abuse)Behavioural issues

I am passionate about promoting positive mental health and strive to work holistically with both mind and body to help my clients achieve lasting change.

Fees

Initial consultations: £245 (1 hour)

Follow-up consultations: £245 (1 hour)

Alexandra Madureira

I’m a Clinical Psychologist who thinks outside the box. I have a creative and passionate approach that focuses on healing emotions while also considering life situations and neurobiological mechanisms.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAddictions AnxietyBDDBipolar disorderBrain inuryBehaviour problemsChronic painDepression Eating DisordersFibromyalgiaMemory problemsOCDPanic AttacksPersonality DisordersTrauma & PTSD

I believe feeling safe is a prerequisite for change and therefore I focus on making people feel comfortable, so they can gain the courage to face and break unhelpful psychological patterns.

Fees

Please contact us for more information

Dr Ana Tsakiri

My Trauma-informed practice and holistic therapeutic approach aims to support children during periods of acute crisis but also help them with long standing emotional and behavioural difficulties. I work with families to understand how adversity and trauma has impacted a child’s world causing emotional and mental health difficulties as well as physical symptoms. I am also a Consultant Psychiatrist specialised in Interventional Psychiatry with TMS therapy for young people with resistant emotional difficulties and severe depression.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAnxietyAutismBehavioural problemsBDDBipolar disorderBrain inuryComplex TraumaDepression Eating DisordersEmotional Difficulties Family workInterpersonal relationship problemsOCDPanic AttacksParental Psychoeducation about Mental Health DisordersPersonality DisordersPhychosomatic symptomsPsychosisPTSDSleep problems

The aim is always for your child to overcome the negative influence of the experience, redefine how they feel and rebuild their confidence

Fees
First Consultation:
£395
(1 hour)
First Consultation:
£650
(1.5 hours)
First Consultation:
£790
(2 hours)
Follow-up consultations:
£245
(30 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£295
(40 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£395
(60 min)

Dr Jonathan Garabette

I am a Psychiatrist specialising in General Psychiatry and Medical Psychotherapy. I treat most mental health difficulties and offer a range of approaches including medication, psychological therapies and lifestyle modification.
Conditions I treat:
Depression and Dysthymia​Depression and Dysthymia​Depression and Dysthymia​

I always try to focus on understanding you as a whole person and how any symptoms, problems and diagnoses affect you, your life and what is important to you.

Fees
First Consultation:
£475
(1 hour)
First Consultation:
£720
(1.5 hours)
First Consultation:
£895
(2 hours)
Follow-up consultations:
£275
(30 minutes)
Follow-up consultations:
£320
(40 minutes)
Follow-up consultations:
£475
(60 minutes)

Lynn Gruwez

I’m a Clinical Psychologist with experience across a range of mental health conditions. My goal as a therapist is to see each person as someone unique and human. I seek to understand in depth the nature of any mental health symptoms so that I can flexibly and creatively adapt therapy to suit your circumstances.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAddictions AnxietyBDDBipolar disorderBehaviour problemsChronic painDepression Eating DisordersFibromyalgiaOCDPanic AttacksSleep problemsTrauma & PTSD

I believe in a holistic, non-judgemental approach where clients have the space and freedom to share their fears without constraint. I have a strong interest and passion for Mindfulness.

Fees

Please contact us for more information

Dr Triveni Joshi

I am a Consultant Psychiatrist specialising in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry with over 15 years clinical experience. I treat a wide variety of mental health and emotional conditions with an emphasis on holistic treatment and working with parents/carers.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAngerAnxietyAutismBDDBipolar disorderBehavioural difficultiesDepression Emerging Personality DisordersOCDPanic AttacksParentingPsychosisSleep problemsTrauma & PTSD

I love to work with children. I wholeheartedly believe that early intervention is one of the best ways to successfully manage long term mental health problems.

Fees
First Consultation:
£475
(1 hour)
First Consultation:
£720
(1.5 hours)
First Consultation:
£895
(2 hours)
Follow-up consultations:
£320
(40 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£475
(60 min)

Dr Regina Sala

I am a caring and approachable medical doctor specializing in cognitive, behavioural and emotional well-being in children, adolescents, adults and their families. My ethos is to offer excellence of care based on evidence-based research with respect and compassion.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAutismAddictions AnxietyAttachment difficultiesBDDBehaviour problemsBereavement, grief and lossBipolar disorderBrain injuryChronic painDepressionEating DisordersFamily TherapyFibromyalgiaIntellectual disabilityMedically unexplained symptomsOCDPanic AttacksPersonality DisordersPsychosisPsychosomatic symptomsSleep problemsSocial communication disorderSpecific learning disordersTics and Tourette’s syndromeTrauma & PTSD

I see my patients as human beings and aim to foster a sincere and relaxed environment so that we can build trust during our sessions. I believe in a positive body-mind integration with neuroscience’s principles to empower self-awareness, resilience and personal growth

Fees
First Consultation:
£475
(1 hour)
First Consultation:
£720
(1.5 hours)
First Consultation:
£895
(2 hours)
Follow-up consultations:
£320
(40 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£475
(60 min)

Dr Maria M. Herves

I am a General Psychiatrist with great interest in childhood and adolescence psychiatry. I have been working specifically in this field over the last 10 years. I believe that supporting mental health at early stages in life can prevent it from developing further into more persistent difficulties in adulthood.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAnxietyAutismBehaviour problemsBipolar disorderChronic painComplex trauma and PTSDDBT(Dialectical behaviour therapyDepressionEmotional DysregulationFamily workFibromyalgiaMemory problemsOCDPanic AttacksParentingPersonality DisordersPsychosisPsychosomaticSchool bullying and cyberbullyingSleep problems

I regard the patient as the product, not the problem. They are a result of their environmental, genetic and social influences, all of which can be addressed and supported with professional help.

Fees
First Consultation:
£475
(1 hour)
First Consultation:
£720
(1.5 hours)
First Consultation:
£895
(2 hours)
Follow-up consultations:
£250
(30 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£320
(40 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£475
(60 min)

Dr Iyas Assalman

I am a Consultant Psychiatrist specialised in General Adult Psychiatry. I treat a wide variety of mental health and emotional conditions and I have an expertise in treating Adults with ADHD.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAnxietyBDDBehaviour problemsBipolar disorderDepressionMemory problemsOCDPanic AttacksPsychosisSleep problemsTrauma and PTSD

Rather than seeing you as a diagnosis or trying to change your personality, I want to understand my patients as a whole person.

Fees
First Consultation:
£495
(1 hour)
First Consultation:
£745
(1.5 hours)
First Consultation:
£980
(2 hours)
Follow-up consultations:
£290
(30 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£385
(40 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£495
(60 min)

Dr Luis Alameda

I am a General Adult Psychiatrist and a Neuroscience Researcher. I specialise in severe mental conditions including trauma. I offer an individualised intervention integrating psychotherapy and medical approaches.

Conditions I treat:
AnxietyBorderline Personality DisorderBipolar disorderBrain inuryBehaviour problemsChronic painDepression Dissociative disordersNarcissistic Personality DisorderOCDPanic AttacksPersonality DisordersPsychosisReactions to acute stressSchizophreniaSchizoaffective DisorderSleep problemsTrauma & PTSD

I believe that difficulties in managing mental health are a normal part of life and far more common than you might think. They present an opportunity to understand the problem, become more self-aware and progress on your journey.

Fees
First Consultation:
£395
(1 hour)
Follow-up consultations:
£220
(30 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£330
(45 min)

Dr Lara Lavadiño

I am a General Adult Psychiatrist specialised in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I have specialist expertise in managing complex and long term conditions. I am an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) certified psychotherapist also integrating Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Systemic Therapy and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy principles.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAnxietyAutismBDDBehaviour problemsBrain injuryChronic fatigueChronic painDepressionDissociationFibromyalgiaLearning DisabilityOCDPanic AttacksPanic/AgoraphobiaParentingPerformance anxiety in Music, Acting and SportsPerinatal PsychiatryPersonality DisordersPsychosisSleep problemsSocial phobiaTinnitus and VertigoTrauma & PTSD

I believe in a positive psychiatry approach, empowering both children and adults to overcome any difficulties by providing education and support on their condition, along with a holistic and personalised treatment plan.

Fees
First Consultation:
£475
(1 hour)
First Consultation:
£720
(1.5 hours)
First Consultation:
£895
(2 hours)
Follow-up consultations:
£320
(40 min)
Follow-up consultations:
£475
(60 min)

Dr Srinvas Lanka

I am a Consultant Psychiatrist specialising in Adult Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry. I treat a wide variety of mental health and emotional conditions and have specialist expertise in managing complex and long term conditions.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAutismAddictions AnxietyBDDBipolar disorderBrain inuryBehaviour problemsChronic painDepression Eating DisordersFibromyalgiaMemory problemsOCDPanic AttacksPersonality DisordersPsychosisSleep problemsTrauma & PTSD

I try to understand your treatment goals, values, limitations and preferences, so we can personalise your treatment using the best approach that gives you sustained recovery.

Fees
ADHD Initial Consultation:
£1160
(2 hours)
Initial Consultation:
£870
(1.5 hours)
Follow-up Consultation:
£290
(30 min)
Follow-up Consultation:
£580
(1 hour)

Dr Jonathan Garabette

I am a Psychiatrist specialising in General Psychiatry and Medical Psychotherapy.
I treat most mental health difficulties and offer a range of approaches including medication, psychological therapies and lifestyle modification.

Conditions I treat:
Addictions AnxietyBDDBipolar disorderBorderline Personality DisorderComplex TraumaDepersonalisationDepression Eating DisordersInsomniaOCDSleep problemsPanic AttacksPsychosisTrauma & PTSD

I always try to focus on understanding you as a whole person and how any symptoms, problems and diagnoses affect you, your life and what is important to you.

Fees
Initial Consultation:
£1160
(2 hours)
Initial Consultation:
£870
(1.5 hours)
Follow-up Consultation:
£580
(1 hour)
Follow-up Consultation:
£290
(30 min)

Dr Nagore Benito

I am a General Adult Psychiatrist with extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of most mental health conditions. I offer a person-centered and holistic approach.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAnxietyBDDBipolar disorderDepression OCDPanic AttacksPsychosisSleep problemsTrauma & PTSD

The best six doctors anywhere, and no one can deny it are sunshine, water, rest, and air, exercise and diet. These six will gladly you attend If only you are willing Your mind they’ll ease Your will they’ll mend And charge you not a shilling
– Nursery rhyme quoted by Wayne Fields, What the River Knows, 1990

Dr Alberto Pertusa

I have a strong interest in behaviour modification, lifestyle optimisation and the use of self-quantification as a way to foster wellbeing and increase performance.

Conditions I treat:
ADHDAddictionsAnxietyBinge EatingOCDOrthorexiaSleep problems

I always strive to provide the highest standards of care to all my patients.
I endeavour to offer personalised and bespoke treatment in order to meet your specific needs